July 15, 2007

Dueling views of Uncas

Modern eyes can distort historyUncas was the subchief of the Mohegan/Pequots, and his father-in-law, Sassacus, was the sachem, or chief. They quarreled over who was the rightful leader of the Pequot. After a rebellion, Uncas gained independence for the Mohegan.

It was a time when colonists were arriving in great numbers on the eastern shores of this continent, and there were skirmishes and wars among the tribes. Uncas befriended the whites, and the Mohegan became one of the most powerful tribes at that time.

His decision to stand beside the whites came at a cost. "Uncas was a greedy individual who wanted power, and he sold his soul to the colonists," said Ray Geer, a member of the Eastern Pequot Nation, in a 2002 documentary about Uncas.

"He's the first Tonto and the Lone Ranger," said Joseph Bruchac, a member of the Western Abenaki Tribe in Vermont, in the same documentary. "It's this image of the white man with the faithful Indian by his side that continues on down through movies and television right to the present day."

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